Mangawhai is a small beachside settlement in lower Northland. Less than an hour and a half's drive from Auckland and an hour from Whangarei. It is a very popular holiday spot for New Zealanders. The main attraction are its beaches; located on a natural harbor there are safe harbor beaches and an excellent surfing beach at the harbor entrance.
However there are a lot more things to do here than just go to the beach. Here are some of the many activities available. Most are suitable for all the family.
Swimming and the Beaches
- Ocean Beach: There is swimming between the flags at the ocean beach at Mangawhai Heads. It's a great surfing spot too.
- Picnic Bay: This small and safe swimming beach is just inside the harbor entrance. It's reached by a track from the Heads' car park.
- Estuary beaches: There are several other places to swim in the harbor. Most access points are behind the shopping village and are easy to find.
- Te Arai Point: a short distance to the south of Mangawhai, this fronts onto the ocean. It's a great spot for surf casting and shelling. If swimming, watch out for any rips.
- Sand dunes: The giant sand dunes that dominate the seaward side of the harbor are also fronted on both sides by long stretches of beach. It's possible to drive there (down Raymond Bull Road). A quicker way to get there is straight across the harbor in a kayak or small boat. Much of this area is a wildlife refuge so care should be taken. Keep an eye out for signs indicating prohibited areas.
- Waipu Cove and Langs Beach: These are two great beaches a short distance to the north of Mangawhai. Read more: What to See and Do in Waipu
- Lake Tomarata: This is a freshwater lake, inland from Te Arai Point. It's popular for swimming and water skiing.
- Fishing: Fish at Te Arai Point or from the rocks at Lang's Beach. The Mangawhai Harbor itself is also a good place for fishing and many large fish have been caught there. At night and at low tide it's also a good place to look for flounder (take a torch).
- Kayaking: The harbor is usually very flat and safe, making it ideal for exploring in a kayak.
Walks and Hikes
- Mangawhai Cliffs Walk: This is one of the best walks in lower Northland. It starts from the surf beach at the Heads. Walk north along the beach until you see the signs taking you up over the hill for some magnificent views. Allow three hours return for the walk. If the tide is low you can also return along the beach.
- Surf Beach Lookout: This is right behind the Surf Club at the Heads. It is only a short walk but it gives amazing views in all directions.
- Golf Club Lookout Walkway: This is another short walk (ten minutes) that rewards with great views. It starts at the Information Map sign next to the golf course on Molesworth Drive (on the left of the main road driving through town to the Heads).
- Mangawhai Forestry Block: The forest was originally planted to stop the movement of the sand dunes onto neighboring farms. There are two loop tracks, both of which pass along the ocean beach and through pretty wooded areas.
- Eyres Point: From Te Arai Point, this is a climb up to the headlands. From here there are fabulous views along the entire length of Bream Bay, from Whangarei Heads in the north to Cape Rodney in the south.
Other Outdoor Activities
- Trail or Bike Riding: The Mangawhai Forest contains several walking and cycling tracks. Some areas require permission to access so check at the Mangawhai I-Site Information Center.
- Horse Riding: Waipu and Pakiri (south of Mangawhai) both offer horse treks. Pakiri Horse Treks is regarded as one of the finest in New Zealand and probably the best in the North Island.
- Mini Golf: There's a fun course along with a children's playground behind the shops in Wood Street.
- Golf: The course is excellent and you can't miss it; it's on the main road opposite the shops.
When It's Wet
- Bennett's Chocolate Factory: Watch chocolate being made and of course try a sample from one of New Zealand's best known boutique chocolate makers. It's located opposite Insley Road near the village shops.
- Matakohe Kauri Museum: This is forty-five minutes by car from Mangawhai but well worth the trip. It is Northland's leading museum and traces the history of the felling of the kauri forests that once covered most of Northland.
- Whangarei City: The largest city in Northland, Whangarei is only an hour away. There is a good selection of shops, cafes and restaurants.